how to become an event planner

Charity / Fundraising / Non-profit Event Planning Careers

In this section, we'll look at the pros and cons of charity / fundraising / non-profit event planning careers—as described by a professional; Farida Haqiqi, former Events Manager, The British Red Cross.

farida haqiqi
Farida Haqiqi
The British Red Cross

Farida Haqiqi is the former Events Manager for The British Red Cross.

Events she worked on included the annual British Red Cross London Ball; a gala fundraising dinner for 600 people, a “major donor” event at Clarence House with HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, challenge events such as the London Marathon, and an annual British Red Cross Skills Share conference for 200 delegates.

Pros of charity / fundraising / non-profit event planning careers
01

Meaningful Results

“It’s satisfying to know that the money raised is used to fund projects that will change people’s lives. On a personal level, I totally supported the work of The Red Cross and felt very privileged to be working for the world’s largest humanitarian aid organization. It certainly helped keep me driven and wanting to achieve more.

If you’re going to be a charity / fundraising / non-profit event planner, you should have a genuine interest in wanting to promote the work of the organization, rather than taking the job because you want to work in events.

Ultimately your events are put on to raise money for a greater good; if you genuinely support the work of the charity / non-profit then you’ll get a lot of personal satisfaction from your job.”

02

Meeting People

“Charity / fundraising / non-profit events bring you into contact with all sorts of people—many of whom I would never have had the opportunity to meet under normal circumstances. Whether it was the volunteer committee, charity ambassadors, celebrities, donors, sponsors, suppliers, or the production company, I was lucky to work with some really interesting people from all different backgrounds.

The British Red Cross London Ball was the main event of the year and therefore my biggest and most important project; working so intensely with so many people could be stressful sometimes but it was always great fun.”

03

Networking Opportunities

“When you’re working as a charity / fundraising / non-profit event planner, you have access to a whole wealth of people who are great for building up your own book of contacts. These include volunteer committees, corporate sponsors, auction and raffle prize donors, venue suppliers, florists, caterers, production companies, design companies, printers, security, auction houses, entertainment agents, and PR companies.

You’ll be liaising with these contacts on a daily basis and forming important relationships with them, which in charity / fundraising / non-profit events is crucial. If you’ve got a good relationship with a supplier or a donor, then they are likely to want to stay involved with the event and the charity on a long-term basis. They may also be potential employers if you decide to move into other sectors of the events industry.”

04

Working on the Entire Event

“With charity / fundraising / non-profit events there are sometimes less resources available to you, but the up-side of that is that you get to handle all aspects of the planning. This is a great opportunity if you’re just getting starting out in the events industry because you’re not just involved in one specific area of the planning process; you’re involved with everything, such as the theme and format, where it will be held, who provides the entertainment, and which suppliers you’ll be using for the event.

You’ll also manage all the logistics and operations of the event, handle supplier contracts, and be in charge of the budget. Whereas if you are working for a larger event agency, you might be just one of a team—certainly early on in your career—and therefore only get to work on certain elements of the event planning.”

05

Promotional Opportunities

“There are good promotional opportunities. If you start out in a junior position, chances are you’ll be able to move up pretty quickly as other team members move up or move to other jobs. Within four years I’d worked my way up from Event Administrator, to Event Officer, then Senior Event Officer, until I was finally promoted to Events Manager.”

Cons of charity / fundraising / non-profit event planning careers
01

The Pay

“Charity / non-profit wages are notably lower than those in the corporate sector, or even at event agencies, but with equally long hours involved. If money is a motivating factor, then charity / non-profit events aren’t going to be right for you. I wanted to work in charity / non-profit events because it was important to me to be involved in something that would make a difference.”

02

Competition

“There’s a lot of competition for jobs with charities / non-profit organizations, especially in events, so it would be wrong for anyone to expect to just walk into a job.

Often a charity might only have one fundraising event planner—at The Red Cross, it was just an assistant and myself. People often say you can get into the events industry by starting in charity / fundraising / non-profit events and you can pick up some great experience as a volunteer. However, getting a paying job as a charity / fundraising / non-profit event planner is just as competitive as it is to work for an event agency—perhaps more so because charities and non-profits have far fewer positions to offer.”

03

Long Hours

“I think anyone wanting to get into the events industry, whether charity or corporate, should be aware of the long hours involved. All event planners will tell you that the job involves long hours, but for charity, fundraising, and non-profit events, where there are fewer resources available, this is even more so.

It may appear to be a glamorous job but in reality it’s behind the scenes where all the work really goes on. The only glamorous part is being able to put on a pretty dress and perhaps grab a canapé as a tray goes past. Other than that, it’s non-stop work with little or no time for breaks.

Internal volunteers often used to comment on the fact they had no idea how much work went into an event until they came along to help out on the evening. Very often, we would start at 8 a.m. and not finish until 3 a.m. the following morning—then we’d have to be at the office at 9 a.m.

Also, in the final weeks leading up to an event it feels like you’re on a treadmill that gets faster and faster; you’re in at 8 a.m. and out at 11 p.m., sometimes even later, and then you realize you’ve not even had lunch or dinner. I remember one event when the Chairman of the volunteer committee and I pulled an all-nighter to finish the printed brochure in time for the print deadline. So, anyone expecting a job where they can clock off at 5 p.m. and go home early should not even consider it.”

04

Managing Volunteer Committees

“Charity / fundraising / non-profit event committees are usually made up fairly high level, well-connected, or affluent volunteers. The majority of members I worked with were lovely and easy to get on with, but there are always one or two who can be difficult and so you have to be very diplomatic. There are often some very big ego’s you need to tip toe around.”

05

Limitations

“With charity / fundraising / non-profit events you’re always going to be limited in what you can do because of budget constraints, but the creative side can also be limited by charity guidelines. At The Red Cross, we had fairly strict guidelines for how the charity could be portrayed and what it could be associated with, which even extended to how the printed materials were designed and laid out. Sometimes it can be hard to reconcile those guidelines with the look, feel, and theme of an event.”

06

Fundraising Targets

“It doesn’t matter how fabulous an event is, how amazing it all looks, or how much people enjoy it, if you don’t hit your fundraising target, it won’t be considered a success. That can be a lot of pressure on top of all the usual pressures of event planning.”




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